Public Health Litigation: Possibilities and Pitfalls

Friday, April 17, 2020
Due to concerns related to COVID-19, the paper workshop component of our 2020 conference will now be hosted virtually.
Join us from noon on Friday, April 17, via Zoom at

The community discussion has been postponed unil the fall. Details to be announced soon. 

In the 1990s, lawsuits against tobacco companies focused the public’s attention on a deadly public health epidemic, unearthed critical and shocking information through discovery, and changed the political dynamics regarding regulation. Since then, we’ve seen how litigation can help change industry practices, discourage consumption and sometimes fund public health efforts. Public health advocates, as well as states and municipalities, have sued gun manufacturers, fast food restaurants, e-cigarette companies, manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids and contributors to climate change, all with an eye to improving public health.

Nonetheless, affirmative public health litigation continues to face numerous obstacles. These include federal and state preemption, limitations on class actions, and questions about whether litigation can achieve effective public health changes. 

Leading academics, activists and policymakers will participate in a virtual paper workshop to explore the possibilities and pitfalls of litigating in the public health context as we move forward.

2020 Health Law Conference 
Paper Workshop Program

Friday, April 17, 2020

12:00 PM


Wendy E. Parmet
Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law
Faculty Director, Center for Health Policy and Law, Northeastern University School of Law
Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Sarah Canapari
Editor-in-Chief, Northeastern University Law Review

12:00-  3:00 PM

Workshop Paper Presentations
In collaboration with the Northeastern University Law Review (NULR), we issued a Call for Papers for this workshop. Selected authors will present their papers during the workshop and commentators will offer feedback during the session. 

Paper 1 

Public Health Litigation Transparency

Jennifer Oliva
Associate Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law

Donna Levin, National Director, The Network for Public Health Law

Paper 2

Litigation as Education: Public Health’s Role in Second Amendment Constitutional Analysis

Michael Ulrich
Assistant Professor of Health Law, Ethics, & Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health; Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy, Yale Law School

Zoe Grover, Executive Director, Stop Handgun Violence

Paper 3

The Biggest Agency Problem of All: Public Health in the Opioid Litigation

Daniel Aaron
JD/MD Candidate and Petrie-Flom Center Student Fellow, Harvard University

Richard Daynard
President, Public Health Advocacy Institute; University Distinguished Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Paper 4

Preemption and Privatization in the Opioid Litigation

Lance Gable
Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School 

Mark Gottlieb
Executive Director, Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI)

Paper 5

The Fourth Wave?: Public Health Litigation, E-cigarettes, and the Cigarette Endgame

Micah Berman
Associate Professor of Health Services Management & Policy, College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

Monica Valdes Lupi, Senior Fellow, de Beaumont Foundation

Paper 6

The Procurement of Public Health Litigation and its Implications for Public Health

Liza Vertinsky
Associate Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law
[Paper co-authored with Reuben A. Guttman, Guttman, Buscher & Brooks PLLC]

Eric Gold, Chief, Health Care Division, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office

Paper 7

Public Health Law 2020: The Limits of Using Litigation to Change Hearts and Minds

Peter Jacobson
Professor Emeritus of Health Law and Policy and Director, Center for Law, Ethics, and Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health

Monica Valdes Lupi
Senior Fellow, de Beaumont Foundation

3:00 PM